New York governor Kathy Hochul's administration funneled more than $600 million in no-bid COVID-19 contracts to a megadonor family that has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democrat's campaign.
From December 2021 to March 2022, Hochul's Department of Health paid $637 million in taxpayer funds to Digital Gadgets LLC for at-home COVID tests, the Albany Times Union reported. That company—which is based in New Jersey and sells hoverboards and other electronics through television shopping network QVC—is led by Charlie Tebele, whose family has contributed nearly $300,000 to Hochul's campaign. The purchases were made under Hochul's November coronavirus state-of-emergency order, which suspended the state's competitive bidding process for COVID-related spending.
The ordeal marks the latest example of how Democratic governors have used the pandemic to award their political allies. In April of 2020, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.) awarded a contract for the state's contact-tracing operation to a Democratic consultant who then retained one of Whitmer's own campaign vendors, liberal data behemoth NGP VAN, to work on the project. After the Washington Free Beacon exposed that deal, Whitmer rescinded the contract and said her office had no role in awarding it. Internal emails, however, later showed that Whitmer's office gave the "green light" to move forward with the plan.
Hochul is not the only New York Democrat to award a COVID contract to Digital Gadgets after taking campaign cash from the owner's family. In the spring of 2020, then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio's administration awarded $119 million in no-bid coronavirus contracts to the company shortly after the Tebele family gave the Democrat's presidential campaign roughly $30,000. Digital Gadgets, however, failed to provide the 2,000 ventilators and 200,000 "breathing kits" it promised to the city, causing the de Blasio administration to cancel a $91 million contract that was part of its deal with the megadonor family's company.
Hochul took office in August 2021 after disgraced Democrat Andrew Cuomo resigned in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. Hochul has leveraged her relationships with deep-pocketed megadonors such as the Tebeles to raise a record-breaking $34 million since becoming governor. She emerged from New York's gubernatorial primary in June and will face Republican challenger Lee Zeldin in November.